What Mohalla Assi’s 3-Year Delay Says About India’s Censor Board


What Mohalla Assi’s 3-Year Delay Says About India’s Censor Board

Illustration: Akshita Monga


handraprakash Dwivedi’s controversial Mohalla Assi – based on the book Kashi Ka Assi by Dr Kashinath Singh – has been in the making for the last six years. Since 2011, Mohalla Assi has flitted through several release dates to finally hit the theatres today. Set in a 1988 Varanasi neighbourhood, the film covers the 10-year-period in India that witnessed events which defined the country we live in today – the Babri Masjid demolition, the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.

Yet the release hardly feels like a victory. Instead the film – intended to be a scathing critique of caste politics, prejudice, conservatism, the commercialisation of religion, and the emergence of the Hindu Rashtra – feels weakened by its dated release. Its delayed opening at the theatres doesn’t just undermine the film’s relevance but also renders its prospects pointless. As it stands, Mohalla Assi is an unfortunate example of a film that suffers without a release and even with it. But more importantly, it is an important reminder of the lengths that the country’s Censor Board can go to silence voices critical of the government.